The 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan last September, has benefited Iran’s regional policy. Not only did the Islamic Republic extend the roadmap for joining the group, the conference also provided a convenient opportunity to revive and strengthen ties with neighboring Uzbekistan.
Ebrahim Raisi was the first Iranian president to visit Uzbekistan in 20 years since then-President Sayyed Mohammad Khatami visited Tashkent in 2002. Former Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov then visited Tehran in 2003, but attended that year’s Summit to join the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) — Karimov’s long-term president (1991-2016) focused on domestic policy and It is undeniable that it was marked by a very introverted and conservative approach to both foreign policy. Thus, relations between Iran and Uzbekistan at that time were cold and fragile, especially due to his two main factors. First was Tashkent’s concern about Iran’s influence on Tajik-populated areas of Uzbekistan, particularly the areas of Samarkand and Bukhara. The then-close ties between Iran and Tajikistan, along with frigid and strained relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, reinforced this concern. Second, during the Karimov era, Uzbekistan feared the spread of political, Shia and revolutionary Islam by Iran and Tehran’s support for Islamist parties and groups beyond Iran’s borders. This fear was partly fueled by Iran’s close ties with the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, so even as Tehran made efforts to improve relations with Tashkent, Tashkent refused to seek full Iranian membership. It remained one of his main opponents within the SCO to expand.
However, this situation changed dramatically after Karimov’s sudden death in September 2016 and Shavkat Mirziyoyev took power. In foreign policy, Uzbekistan has a “de-escalation approach”, “openness policy” and “exchanges with neighboring countries” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan). “Building a balance with regional powers” (Iran, Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia); as well as “Building a balance with international powers” (Russia, China, Europe, and the United States). Regarding Iran in particular, relations between Tajikistan and Iran have deteriorated at the same time, and relations have also warmed thanks to a decline in Uzbekistan’s concerns about the ethnic and linguistic situation in the country’s Tajik region.
However, despite positive progress along the Tehran-Tashkent axis, the two countries are at the height of the Donald Trump administration’s “maximum pressure policy” (2018-20) against Iran, with significant new faced obstacles. When former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Uzbekistan was abruptly canceled in the summer of 2018, some news sources within the Islamic Republic said it was the result of a meeting between Trump and Mirziyoyev in Washington that May. suggested that it may be
After Joe Biden entered the White House in January 2021, concerns about the Mirziyoyev administration’s closer deal with Iran waned. Moreover, Raisi, Rouhani’s successor to power in Iran in August 2021, has announced “neighbourhood policy” and “economic diplomacy” as his two major foreign policy priorities in the government. , contributed to this warming trend.
Improvements in bilateral relations over the past few months culminated in Raisi’s visit to Uzbekistan to attend the SCO summit in Samarkand in September 2022, and Iran’s China- and Russia-led I have signed a memorandum of understanding obligated to become a permanent member of the organization. It should be noted, however, that on his September 14th, the day before this summit, delegations of Iran and Uzbekistan, led respectively by Raisi and Mirziyoyev, sat in the Uzbek capital and signed 17 memorandums of understanding and cooperation documents in various fields. that you have signed Two of these agreements are of particular importance.
First, Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Ozi and Uzbekistan’s Oil Minister Azim Ahmad Kojaf announced that liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), jet fuel, kerosene, gas condensate, and petrochemicals; Support development. Iranian oil exports will restore the operational capacity of Uzbekistan’s two refineries in Bukhara and Fergana. Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs Ahmad Asazadeh said Uzbekistan’s refineries are operating at 50% capacity, with he having a refining capacity of 230,000 barrels. Iran could restore capacity of up to 115,000 barrels at his two refineries in Bukhara and Fergana. It is therefore unlikely that the lack of a new international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, and the related continuation of Trump-era sanctions, particularly on Iran’s oil exports, will not constitute a major limitation or impediment to the Islamic Republic’s offensive capabilities. it is clear. The new oil cooperation is trading with other countries, including Uzbekistan.
The second significant agreement between Iran and Uzbekistan from the Samarkand talks was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Uzbekistan’s use of Chabahar Port, located in the Gulf of Oman. Especially since President Mirziyoyev’s inauguration, dual landlocked Uzbekistan has expressed interest in using these port facilities to handle imports and exports in order to reduce the Central Asian country’s dependence on trade routes through Russian territory. I brought This has become especially important since Russia’s large-scale re-invasion of Ukraine began earlier this year, and for many international logistics companies, the continued viability of transcontinental shipments through the Russian Federation has increased. Gender is questioned.
This confluence of leadership changes, bilateral contacts, common interests and geopolitical shocks has helped Iran and Uzbekistan overcome many years of misunderstandings and tensions. As the Iranian president said in Samarkand, trade between the two provinces has reached $500 million a year, and he expects this amount to be three to four times his.
But the long-term prospects for Iran-Uzbekistan relations will depend on developments that have little to do with bilateral relations. International negotiations on the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is one such important factor. These negotiations now appear to be in a moribund state. And given the current situation inside Iran after protests erupted in Iran more than a month ago, a new deal is even more distant. During previous waves of demonstrations, including 2009-2010, January 2018 and November 2019, Western negotiating parties have significantly strengthened their position in nuclear negotiations with Iran and sought to make meaningful concessions to Tehran. refrained from doing so. The same dynamics could unfold now. And without a new nuclear deal, Washington will be very reluctant to lift any of the Iran sanctions. Meanwhile, the Iranian government’s continued attempts to end the demonstrations could easily lead to further economic restrictions. That said, some, such as Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, said, “Americans and Europeans are under a lot of pressure because of the war in Ukraine and the winter energy crisis. Therefore, we need an agreement with Iran.”
Uncertain and vague prospects for activating the JCPOA could jeopardize Iran-Uzbekistan oil cooperation. However, Chabahar port presents a different case, where the US’s strong Indian lobbying may be the deciding factor. It is worth remembering that the Indians who also signed this highly strategic logistics project successfully persuaded the Trump administration to exclude Chabahar port from the package of economic sanctions for 2018-2020. Thus, should nuclear talks fail and the scope of US sanctions against Iran continue or further increase, so long as the UN Security Council does so, it opens the door for continued Uzbekistan-Iranian cooperation on Chabahar. Indian lobbying could again become critical of leaving. Do not restore the harsh Chapter 7 sanctions against Iran. As such, while Tehran and Tashkent share many incentives to strengthen ties, particularly in the energy and transport sectors, relations between the two countries remain exposed to those of Iran and the great powers.
Dr. Valli Khaledi is a specialist in Area Studies, Central Asia and Caucasian Studies based in Tehran, Iran. He has published numerous articles on Eurasian affairs in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, the American Foreign Policy Council’s Central Asia His Caucasian Institute, and Valdai His Club. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Photo by Iranian President’s Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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